There are not many things more satisfying than pulling a lemon off your own tree, picking some salad leaves to have with dinner or even unearthing potato treasures from your soil. There are some things that are a must- have in your garden that will help feed your family and now is a great time to try your hand at growing some of them. Whether you live in a house, share house,
apartment or acreage, these five edible garden staples will help feed your family all through the year and all of them are just as happy in a pot or tub as they are in a garden bed. Harvesting your own produce to use for your next meal is a great way to make sure your food is nutritionally dense, full of life and has the added bonus of saving you money.
Silverbeet is a great all-year vegetable to have in your garden as it’s high in iron, calcium, vitamins and antioxidants. It will grow happily all year round, is happy in either a pot or a garden bed and can even handle a bit of shade. By removing only the leaves you need for each meal, you’ll break the habit of it wanting to go to seed so it will keep growing and producing for a long time. The leaves can be stir fried or steamed and the colourful leaf stalks can be turned into a kimchi or even pickled. As silverbeet (Beta vulgaris) is in the same family as beetroot, its large woody root is edible, and while perhaps not as sweet as its cousin, it can be wrapped in foil and slow roasted with a drizzle of honey.
High in carbohydrates, potatoes are a great staple in your garden which kids love. Ideally started in spring from seed potatoes (which are not actually a seed, but a small potato), they can be planted anytime in tubs or garden beds. Try to use only organic seed potatoes as these are certified disease free, and don’t be tempted to plant the ones developing shoots in the bottom of the pantry – store-bought potatoes are often sprayed with growth inhibitors to kill off the top growth to make machine harvesting easier. The best way to contain your spuds is to plant them in a large pot. Only half fill your pot with potting mix and, once green shoots appear, cover with another thin layer. Repeat until your pot is almost full and cover with straw. When they start to flower, you can ‘bandicoot’ baby potatoes or wait until the tops start to yellow, then tip the entire pot out and harvest.
Another tough and hardy perennial plant and a really useful staple for any yard or balcony. Highly aromatic, rosemary can add flavour to anything from soups and infused oils through to roast meats and baked vegetables. Rosemary has aromatherapy uses, too, and is said to relax the body, relieve stress and improve memory – try adding a handful of stalks to your next bath. Available in a prostrate or low-growing variety that will spill down a wall or a pot, or as a taller cultivar that’s perfect as a low to medium-sized hedge.
4. LEMON TREE
Most of us had a neighbour, grandparent or friend who had a lemon tree in their backyard. The quintessential suburban backyard tree has been popular for many years – and for good reason. Lemon trees are hardy, their fruit lasts a long time on the tree and has so many uses ranging from cordial through to hair lightener. The three best varieties for backyards are Meyer, Lisbon and Eureka and some have been grafted onto dwarf rootstock to ensure they will grow well in a pot on a balcony, too. Keep an eye out for bulges on new wood which will indicate citrus gall wasp, and if you live in an area prone to fruit fly, try hanging a pheromone trap.
There’s nothing better than harvesting your own lettuce. One of the easiest vegetables to start from seed and with a huge range of intriguing varieties with names like Drunken woman, Forellenschluss and Deer tongue, these beautiful heirloom varieties can’t be found in supermarkets as they need to be eaten the same day as they are harvested. Lettuce can be grown all year round and, like silverbeet, removing the lower leaves as needed instead of cutting the whole head will ensure you get an extended harvest time. Starting your seeds off indoors and in full sun and transplanting into pots or your garden when 3–4 centimetres high will make germination more successful in colder months.